Dogs Only: New Rules for Service Animals on U.S. Airplanes

There are now new rules that greatly restrict what is considered “service animals” on U.S. airplanes.  Under final U.S. Transportation Department rules issued December 2, 2020 only trained dogs qualify as service animals on U.S. airlines.  Regulators rejected requests to extend legal protections to miniature horses, monkeys, birds, ferrets, cats, turkeys, possums, snakes, and other species as service animals.  The new rules will take effect 30 days after publication in the federal register.

The Details

⇒ Airlines can still choose which other species to allow on board, but the rules issued by the U.S. Transportation Department on December 2, 2020 largely resolve years of disputes with passengers who claim pets as “emotional support animals,” which may travel in the cabin with little oversight.

⇒ Under existing rules, airlines were previously required to recognize with limited exceptions emotional support animals as service animals. Now they can classify them as pets.

Legally protected service animals are now limited to dogs trained to perform tasks for a person who may be visually impaired or have psychiatric or other disabilities.

⇒ Airlines may still not refuse a service animal based solely on breed or generalized physical type.

Airlines do not have to allow “emotional support animals.”